« السابقةمتابعة »
nels, &c. The following lines in the mouth of Calista in the Fair Penitent may be extremely picturesque, if considered as pure description; but, if considered with regard to the situation of character, they are certainly very inartificial and undramatic:
My sad soul
Hence, then, we find, that, in the regions of fancy, the drama must yield to the epic; and, as this is a very considerable part of poesy, I think it determines the precedence. In the art of eloquence, and in all applications to our reason, tragedy can boast full room for the most vigo, rous exertion. The drama may be full as sentimental as any other kind of writings; nay, its excellence frequently consists in being so; and, with regard to the passions, the mode of imitation renders its influence more forcible; and, when we are deceived into a notion that the personages are actually suffering distress before our eyes, the performance assumes a kind of reality, and more keen and intenser sensations agitate
our breasts, than in pieces where the description is left to operate upon us without any other aid than that of lively and impassioned expressions. Virgil, I apprehend, was as skilful a master of the passions as any writer, ancient or modern; and, though the passions of his Dido are drawn with as strong and glowing colours as language can bestow; though their various strugglings are all finely and closely marked; though all their vicissitudes, veerings, and doublings, if I may so call them, are finely touched; yet, I believe, Shakspeare's Lear and Othello have made much more lively and deep impressions upon an audience, than ever the former has done upon his admirers in the closet.
These advantages, however, are derived to the tragic queen from supernumerary embellishments, and from the labours of another art, I mean that of acting, which is, in itself, a mode of imitation, and serves to render the touches of the writer more striking, and more feelingly expressive. This superiority the drama certainly has over the epic; and, in consequence of all its additional aids, it can boast a more powerful command over the human heart. It imitates the very voice of nature, and speaks the same simple and affecting language. All that profu sion of figures, which mere poetry admits, is dis
carded from the stage. When I mention figures, I must observe, that men of critical knowledge have justly distinguished between figures of speech, and figures of sentiment; the former including metaphor and all translations of phrases, and the latter consisting of such breaks and transitions in discourse, as the mind is known to make when under the compunction of warring passions. As for instance, when the poet says of Dido, that she is devoured by an inward flame,
Et cæco carpitur igne,
he then expresses love by a figurative expression; but when he says,
Ignoscenda quidem, scirent si ignoscere manes,
the repetition expresses the natural workings of the mind when other ideas are awakened, and serves to excite a new conflict of passions. The use of these kinds of figures in tragedy should be as free and bold as possible; and, with respect to expression, no other regard is to be paid to it than to choose such words as may be most significantly picturesque, in order to have the more lively effect on the imagination, the passions being then in a stronger ferment when lively images are presented to the fancy.
I believe our Shakspeare is almost the only poet who has excelled in a masterly power of striking the imagination, the heart, and our reason, all at once; but in him, poetry, sentiment, and passion, are combined in the most agreeable assemblage. In his tragedy of Macbeth, there are several surprising strokes of this nature. Amidst a great variety of instances, the following lines are introduced with a solemnity suitable to the occasion, and they carry with them a pleasing kind of gloomy imagery:
Ere the bat hath flown
His cloister'd flight, ere to black Hecate's summons
The shard-born beetle, with his drowsy hums,
Hath rung night's yawning peal, there shall be done
The soliloquy in the tent-scene of Richard the Third is also a further instance of the same beauty; though, by the way, it may not be improper to observe, notwithstanding we must allow that Mr. Cibber was in the right to transplant Shakspeare's own words, that they are not perfectly suitable to the character of Richard; and, I believe, had our great poet thought of shewing his hero in this situation, he would have shewed Richard's feelings quite otherwise on such an occasion.
To conclude: Aristotle was certainly mistaken when he called the fable the life and soul of tragedy; the art of constructing the drama tic story should always be subservient to the exhibition of character; our great Shakspeare has breathed another soul into tragedy, which has found the way of striking an audience with sentiment and passion at the same time.
GRAY'S-INN JOURNAL, No. 94.
The censure thrown by Mr. Murphy, in this concluding pa ragraph, on the opinion of Aristotle, appears to be undeserved. To form an interesting fable is certainly one of the most rare and difficult achievements, either in epic or dramatic poetry, and is essential to the perfection of both. Aristotle, after dividing tragedy into six parts, the fable, the manners, the language, the sentiments, the apparatus of the theatre, and the music, very correctly, in my opinion, adds, " that the principal of these parts is the combination of the incidents. For tragedy is not an imitation of particular persons, but of actions in general, of human life, of good and ill fortune; for happiness depends upon action. The main purpose or end of human life consists in a certain mode of action, and not in a quality; and, though the manners of men are derived from their quali ties, their happiness and misery depend on their actions. Ac tions, therefore, are not represented for the purpose of imi tating manners, though manners are necessarily interwoven with the action; therefore action and fable are the end of tragedy, and the end is the object to be principally considered in every thing. Tragedy cannot exist without action, but it may without manners, for most of the tragedies of the later writers are without manners; there being many who hold the same character among the poets, that Zeuxis did with regard